Sunday, 20 June 2010

Gallery Guide: Quilts & More at the V&A

I've been wanting to visit the Quilts exhibit at the V&A and finally went with a couple of friends yesterday. It was actually a bit of a challenge to get a decent view of some of what was on display as it was extremely busy. Here's some of what else I saw whilst at the museum - the quilts will be at the end of the post.

The two puppets above are
'March Hare' & 'The Duchess' from Alice in Wonderland
and were made by Pelham Puppets Ltd between 1950-55. 
They were bought for the V&A's 
Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. They just looked
so great floating in their glass cabinets with those
nonchalant expressions. Adorable outfits too.

A 1931 afternoon dress (above) by 
Paris couturier Madeleine Vionnet.
This dress, which is made up of carefully
pieced sections, looked as if it were made yesterday.
So feminine.

The gown beneath the jacket (above) is called
the 'Delphos' dress and is by
Spanish designer Mariano Fortuny c.1920. 
The piece is constructed from panels of pleated silk 
which make the fabric elastic and allow it to follow
the contours of the body. This classically inspired 'free form' released
women from the constraints imposed by corsets and
was popular with the avant garde, artists and
intellectuals of the late 19th and early 20th Centurys.
Amongst those known to have worn Fortuny's 
gowns were Isadora Duncan and Sarah Bernhardt.

This sweet linen sailor dress c.1912-14
reminds me of Jenny Agutter in
'The Railway Children'.

Ah - the practical yet elegant
Claire McCardell. The wool evening gown
(above) from 1955 is an example of how this 
designer combined everyday fabrics 
with a modern silhouette. Perfect for
a drinks party at the Eames's.

Shoes With Character

Woven silk shoe, British 1720-30

Satin shoe, French or Italian 1770-85

Stencilled leather shoe, British c.1800

Striped cotton boot, British 1812-20

Satin shoe with appliqued ribbons & rosette, c.1860


The more I think about this exhibition the more I want to return and take a closer look at what was on display - to think again about the people who crafted the quilts, the stories woven into them and the love and time invested in their making.

Some of the pieces were simply very moving either because of the context in which they had been made or because of the sentiment expressed within the finished piece. One of those which stood out for me was the quilt made by twenty young girls who had been prisoners during the second world war. 

The Changi Girl Guides - named after the jail they were in - produced this remarkable piece as a gift to their guide leader adding to it with whatever scraps of fabric they could get hold of and finally embroidering their names upon it. The very touching story of this quilt and its makers is written about here.

 Changi quilt detail via here

'Scenes from a Love Story' 1875-85 via here

Coverlet detail by Ann West, 1820 via here

'Liberty Jack' quilt by Janey Forgan, 2008 via here

I love the contrast of the multi-coloured stars bordered by plain navy hexagons here.

Bold and beautiful orangey-red and blue stripes.

Homely and traditional - a lovely bed covering.

If this is your cup of tea there are only a few more days to visit this exhibit - it closes on July 4th.

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